Monday, 5 March 2018

Advice from the Toronto Articling Students

The articling students at MB are almost at the finish line and the exposure we have gained so far has proved invaluable. We have had numerous opportunities to reflect on our experiences, ask for advice from our mentors, and hone our legal skills in an effort to become better lawyers. In the spirit of passing on the lessons we have learned, each of the Toronto students has provided words of advice, along with their top three highlights of their articling experience:

There is a steep learning curve for summer and articling students. It is important to ask questions and make use of the resources the firm provides you with. Work with as many lawyers as you can to get exposure to different styles and areas of law. While working on a file, take initiative by asking the lawyer if you can accompany them on discoveries, mediations, and motions. These attendances provide valuable learning opportunities, along with tips and strategies for developing your personal style.

  • Arguing my first motion;
  • Carriage of my own small claims file; and
  • Assisting in all aspects of a contentious and publicized personal injury file.

Mark  Advice:
Attend as many court appearances as possible! Watching senior counsel speak to the court is a great way to learn what practices to adopt and what practices to avoid as an oral advocate.


  • Assisted in drafting the intervenor materials in David Schnarr v Blue Mountain Resorts Limited and Woodhouse v Snow Valley Resorts (1987) Ltd on behalf of the Canadian Defence Lawyers;
  • Attended a cross-examination on an affidavit that was highly contentious; and
  • Argued a procedurally substantive motion on behalf of our client and other co-defendants.

Gabriela  Advice:
During your articles use precedents as a general guideline only; it is important to formulate your own ideas and style as early as possible as this will better prepare you for your transition to an associate.

  • Having my co-authored article published by LexisNexis;
  • Learning from my mentor; and
  • Observing and appearing at motions court.

Emily  Advice:
After a court appearance, stay and watch the matters that are being heard after yours – you’ll learn a lot!

  • Arguing my first trial at Small Claims Court;
  • Attending/speaking at my first settlement conference; and
  • Arguing my first contested motion.

Michelle  Advice:
“Plan your work and work your plan!”
Make sure you are aware of deadlines and try your best to meet them. Remember that some assignments have hard deadlines (e.g., court documents have to be filed by certain dates) versus soft deadlines (e.g., a summary or an AOD that a lawyer may need a few months from now).
Think about the big picture: what do you want to get out of articling? What practice area are you interested in? Which lawyers do you want to work with? You will have the ability and support to seek out the opportunities you want.
Remember that even when you do your best, things may not work out according to plan!

  • Working on a personal injury trial with interesting tort law issues;
  • Cookie decorating contest during the holidays; and
  • Sitting in on mediations, client meetings, and court attendances to see MB’ers in action!

Melissa  Advice:
Ask questions if you don’t understand your task. It is easy to become overly comfortable with following a precedent; but what if you didn’t have access to one? It is important to actually learn how to draft pleadings and other important documents without relying on a precedent. If you ask questions and understand why you are drafting these documents, eventually you will not have to rely on a precedent.
Triple-check your work. It’s easy to overlook errors in the minor details because you are more focused on the bigger ones.

  • I had the opportunity to assist on a waiver liability matter that went before the Court of Appeal. Not only did I assist with the materials, but I was able to attend the hearing and listen to several of the top litigators in Toronto argue their positions;
  • I attended a videoconferencing discovery with a plaintiff who was located in a European Country.  The dynamic of this experience was interesting because the plaintiff was not in the same room while being questioned; and
  • I attended a settlement conference on my own and made submissions to a deputy judge.

Danielle  Advice:
Accept every opportunity and don’t be afraid to ask questions – seemingly small assignments can become a file to handle on your own and questions can save a lot of time. Often when you accept one task you get to follow up on the lifespan of the file and learn the various steps a file will go through, the important considerations at each stage, and the tactics that will help achieve settlement – so no matter what comes your way, big or small, accept it graciously and view each task as a learning opportunity.

  • Arguing an opposed motion;
  • Attending a pre-trial conference where settlement was reached; and
  • Drafting a complicated mediation memo that addressed nuanced law and required in-depth research and analysis.